Divya Shree, Data Analyst at NatWest, reflects on her upbringing, and on how hard she had to fight for the right to the same education as her brothers.
I come from a small town of Bihar (India) where women/girls education never held a lot of value. The only education they were supposed to get was related to taking care of the home, arranging, cleaning, cooking, taking care of babies and husband because marriage was the end goal. I also remember quite vividly when my Grandmother threw away my books as she saw no value of me studying them. Luckily for me, my parents were quite supportive of my studies. And hence when my elder brother went for an engineering degree from a prestigious college, I was sure that's what I wanted to do as I wanted to prove to the world and more to myself that I can do anything and excel at that as well.
While my brothers were getting ready for their technical degrees and preparing for their choice of engineering universities, my dad got me admitted into an English Honours degree course. I felt like I had no say in my career decisions. My dad of course had good intentions for me. He wasn't sure if technology was a good choice for me, with lesser women in tech, tech colleges being full of boys, no tech colleges near my home, the dreaded work-life balance issues in the tech stream. He even worried if he would be able to get me married if I studied too much.
But while I did join the course, I dropped off after a few days as I felt it wasn't what I wanted to do, I never felt at home, never felt that I belonged there. I wanted to get into the technology stream, just like my brothers. And that's when I became a rebel and went beyond the norm, left home and joined an engineering degree at a college far away from my home. Luckily, my dad finally got onboard with my decision and my parents came with me to look at the campus and to drop me at the hostel.
The rest, as they say, is History.
I am a hardcore feminist (in all the right senses of the word) and hence my role model/inspiration comes from one of the "first generation modern Indian feminists," Savitribai Phule. She was married off at the young age of nine, was illiterate but went ahead against all the odds to complete her education and started teaching girls. She, along with her husband, started around 18 schools for girls, including the first school for females in India. Not only that, she also had open an "Infanticide Prohibition House," to help care for pregnant victims of sexual exploitation who were at risk of committing suicide or infanticide due to their condition. She faced a lot of resistance and even had to carry a saree with her to school as she would have to face stones, cow dung etc. on her way. Her life is such an inspiration.
I am a new mother (to a two year old toddler..!!) - but come on, it still feels like she was born yesterday and I am still as lost as I was when I held her for the first time. Now what do I do with her? Dealing with the "Terrible Two's," is how I spend a major part of my day.
I love buying, borrowing and reading books and traveling is meditation for me. It is like fodder to my starving soul.
I enjoy taking risks, I love living life on the edge. I have done bungee jumping, cliff diving, scuba diving, night camping in deserts etc. I love watching the night sky, stars and the milky way. The most beautiful was at the White desert in Egypt.